Rhode Island Red Food Tours – Newport Neighborhood Tasting

Rhode Island Red Food Tours – Newport Neighborhood Tasting

Certain cities around the globe are known for their unique foods. One trend that is growing in popularity is culinary tourism. It offers travelers a way to explore their destination through food and food experiences, which can range from metropolitan food tasting tours to countryside visits to coffee plantations and vineyards. Tourists want to try the “off-the-beat” restaurants and places only known by the locals. This demand was realized and because of it more food tours have popped up around the globe. Food tours are becoming a more common item on the traveler’s agenda.

One of the newer food tours to pop-up in New England is Rhode Island Red Food Tours.

Rhode Island Red Food Tours

Rhode Island Red Food Tours

It’s owner, Paula Silva, has developed the “Newport Neighborhood – Tasting & Cultural Walking Tour.” It’s a three-hour cultural walking and tasting tour that takes you through little-known historic neighborhoods and to the best-kept secret eateries known to the locals of Newport, RI.

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience this food tour. We made six stops at food tasting locations. In between, we walked through several Newport neighborhoods, away from the popular waterfront Thames Street and Bellevue Avenue mansion districts, and learned about the corresponding history.

This tour combines culinary tastes with historic sites.

This tour combines culinary tastes with historic sites.

Newport historic Artillery Company

Newport historic Artillery Company

We met outside our first stop – Van Gogh Pizza at 12 Broadway.

Van Gogh Pizza was our first stop

Van Gogh Pizza was our first stop

Recently opened in March 2015, Van Gogh Pizza touts itself as specializing in “The art of pizza and the science of sandwichology.” It focuses on combining ingredients with artistic inspiration to create masterpieces. We had the opportunity to taste a slice of The Great White pizza.

We tasted a slice of The Great White pizza.

We tasted a slice of The Great White pizza.

This pizza has cheese, white sauce (which the owner won’t divulge the recipe), chicken, bacon, spinach and oregano. It was an amazing combination of flavors and the crust was nice and doughy.

Our next stop was Washington Square Café and Baking Company, located in the heart of historic Newport.

Washington Square Café and Baking Company is located in the heart of historic Newport.

Washington Square Café and Baking Company is located in the heart of historic Newport.

Operating for over a year, the local community café serves house made pastries, breakfast, lunch and brunch. We were treated to two of their specialties: New England clam chowder and a layered Key Lime and Strawberry pie.

New England clam chowder

New England clam chowder

All baked goods in their display case are baked on site by one of the owners.

Key Lime and Strawberry pie

Key Lime and Strawberry pie

Both the chowder and the pie were delicious. This seems like a great place to hang out and have a leisurely breakfast.

After a short walk, which we were thankful to have in between food tastings, we landed at Perro Salado, a modern Mexican restaurant located two blocks east of Thames Street.

Perro Salado, a modern Mexican restaurant, is located two blocks east of Thames Street.

Perro Salado, a modern Mexican restaurant, is located two blocks east of Thames Street.

Perro Salado means “salty dog” in Spanish. The restaurant is located in an 18th century naval officer’s home. As it is a house rather than typical restaurant space, the seating is broken up into several small rooms along with an outside patio area. This made the restaurant feel very quaint and cozy.

As it is a house rather than typical restaurant space, the seating is broken up into several small rooms along with an outside patio area.

As it is a house rather than typical restaurant space, the seating is broken up into several small rooms along with an outside patio area.

While we expected to taste some typical Mexican foods, instead we were treated to their special sticky pork ribs, which are marinated overnight in a mixture of brown sugar and Coke.

The sticky pork ribs were amazing!

The sticky pork ribs were amazing!

The ribs were amazing! The meat was perfectly seasoned with the right mix of spice and flavor. The meat fell off the bone.

Finishing the halfway mark on the tour, we couldn’t imagine what was next but a stop at Mudville Pub.

Mudville Pub

Mudville Pub

Mudville Pub is an authentic sports bar with not your average pub grub.

Mudville Pub is an authentic sports bar with not your average pub grub.

Mudville Pub is an authentic sports bar with not your average pub grub.

We were told that this pub is the best baseball bar – and soon discovered why it can make this claim. We were led to the very back and amazed with a wonderful surprise.

The pub has counter seating with a view of Cardines Field, a baseball stadium located on America’s Cup Avenue.

The pub has counter seating with a view of Cardines Field, a baseball stadium located on America’s Cup Avenue.

The pub has counter seating with a view of Cardines Field, a baseball stadium located on America’s Cup Avenue. It is believed to be one of the oldest ballparks in the United States. In keeping with the baseball theme, we sampled one of Newport’s local beers.

We sampled one of Newport’s local beers

We sampled one of Newport’s local beers

How fun was this!

Have you beer while watching a game!

Have you beer while watching a game!

We know we will need to stop here again with the boys. They will love this place and want to sit and watch a game!

Cheers! to a fun filled day in Newport!

Cheers! to a fun filled day in Newport!

In keeping with the “grub” theme, we headed on to our fifth stop, Mission restaurant.

Our fifth stop was Mission restaurant.

Our fifth stop was Mission restaurant.

This place serves burgers, hot dogs, a falafel and fries – that’s it! The meat patties and hot dogs are ground in-house. There’s nothing frozen or artificial here. Mission’s handmade burgers and dogs also don’t come with a big price tag.

We sampled the slaw dog. It was one of the best I’ve ever had.

We sampled the slaw dog. It was one of the best I’ve ever had.

We sampled the slaw dog. It was one of the best I’ve ever had. I’m not a coleslaw person, but this was legit homemade without the goopy mayonnaise, and the bun was buttered and perfectly grilled on the flat top. According to food and travel website Thrillist.com, the Mission burger is the best in the state. I’ll definitely be back to try that in my next visit.

Located within feet from our previous stop was our final food-tasting destination, White Horse Tavern, America’s oldest tavern.

White Horse Tavern, America's oldest tavern.

White Horse Tavern, America’s oldest tavern.

Opened in 1670, The White Horse Tavern was a regular haunt for colonists, British soldiers, Hessian mercenaries, pirates, sailors, founding fathers and early Americans. It is known as the birthplace of the “businessman’s lunch” as in the early 1700’s city councilors dined here and charged their meals to the public treasury.

White Horse Tavern opened in 1670's and is the birthplace of the businessman's lunch.

White Horse Tavern opened in 1670’s and is the birthplace of the businessman’s lunch.

Wrapping up our food tasting, we had an amazing dessert called the NY cheesecake eggroll.

NY cheesecake eggroll

NY cheesecake eggroll dessert

Served with fresh berries, the eggroll is filled with NY cheesecake custard, dusted with cinnamon and deep-fried until lightly crispy. Despite being full from all the other treats we tasted along the way, we all managed to indulge – and it was worth the calories!

 

Paula has done a great job scouting out all the “best local” spots and eats. The Newport neighborhood tasting and cultural walking tour was fun and filled with delicious bites and bits of history. When planning your next trip to Newport and you’re looking for something different to do other than the mansions, cliff walk and the waterfront districts, I’d recommend including this delicious destination into your itinerary!

 

Have you ever been on a food walking tour?

What are your favorite places in Newport, RI?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was provided with complimentary tickets for the Rhode Island Red Food Tours, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience.

Madison Beach Hotel, Madison, CT

Madison Beach Hotel, Madison, CT

Madison Beach Hotel is the only boutique beachfront resort in Connecticut.

Madison Beach Hotel is the only boutique beachfront resort in Connecticut.

Madison Beach Hotel is the only boutique beachfront resort in Connecticut.

It boasts 32 guest rooms each overlooking the Long Island Sound.

Each guest room overlooks the Long Island Sound.

Each guest room overlooks the Long Island Sound.

In addition, the hotel has casual and fine dining, event space perfect for weddings and special occasions, and a spa and fitness center all with a comfortable, elegant style.

The hotel has a restaurant, event space and spa.

The hotel has a restaurant, event space and spa.

Recently, I attended a “Meet the Chef” event as the hotel was introducing their new chef, Leo Bushey.

I attended a “Meet the Chef” event as the hotel was introducing their new chef, Leo Bushey.

I attended a “Meet the Chef” event as the hotel was introducing their new chef, Leo Bushey.

Since he was 13 years old, Chef Bushey has been passionately involved in the restaurant industry, raising the bar in Connecticut’s culinary scene. Starting with his humble beginnings at family style restaurants, he quickly progressed through the culinary landscape where his talents were recognized and nurtured by the country’s leading chefs, including James Boyce, Alex Statta, Peter Hoefler and Edward Flattery.

Chef Bushey has been in the food industry since he was 13 years old.

Chef Bushey has been in the food industry since he was 13 years old.

Chef Bushey’s past experience in Connecticut includes executive chef positions at Acqua Oyster Bar, Hartford Club, Country Club of Farmington and The Willows at Doubletree Bristol before being named the executive chef at Madison Beach Hotel.

We had an opportunity to enjoy the fresh flavors of the spring season as Chef Bushey prepared a preview of the upcoming items from the spring menu.

We made our way up the staircase to the pre-dinner cocktail reception.

We made our way up the staircase to the pre-dinner cocktail reception.

We made our way up the staircase to the pre-dinner cocktail reception.

Immediately upon entering the room for cocktails and hors d’oevres, a glass of La Petite Perrier Pinot Noir 2012 was waiting for us. It was mentioned that this wine goes well with the earthy flavors forthcoming from the appetizers.

A glass of La Petite Perrier Pinot Noir 2012 was waiting for us!

A glass of La Petite Perrier Pinot Noir 2012 was waiting for us!

As we mingled and enjoyed the view of Long Island Sound, a round of hors d’oevres began circulating. First, were tried fried Rhode Island clam fritters with a pepper aioli. The aioli was a nice compliment to the perfectly fried fritter and had a little spice kick to it.

Fried Rhode Island clam fritters with a pepper aioli.

Fried Rhode Island clam fritters with a pepper aioli.

Next was a fish cake with heirloom tomato remoulade.

Fish cake with heirloom tomato remoulade.

Fish cake with heirloom tomato remoulade.

It was delicious. I also loved the presentation.

The fish cake was delicious and had a beautiful presentation.

The fish cake was delicious and had a beautiful presentation.

Our third hors d’oevre was cream of mushroom soup shooters finished with truffle crème fraiche. I loved the richness of the soup paired with the light cream.

Cream of mushroom soup shooters finished with truffle crème fraiche.

Cream of mushroom soup shooters finished with truffle crème fraiche.

To round out the cocktail reception was the final appetizer, which consisted of pan flamed beef tenderloin paired with celeriac pomme puree and tomato confit. It was delicious – the perfect bite.

Pan flamed beef tenderloin paired with celeriac pomme puree and tomato confit.

Pan flamed beef tenderloin paired with celeriac pomme puree and tomato confit.

Then, the hotel’s general manager, John Mathers, invited us into the dining room where we were warmly greeting. As it turns out, we were assigned to John’s table for the dinner. He and his wife were wonderful company.

The tables were elegantly set with white and blue linens and simply adored with pansies wrapped in burlap. It was the perfect juxtaposition of rustic flair and sheer elegance. I loved it and might use it for an upcoming dinner party.

The tables were elegantly set with white and blue linens and simply adored with pansies wrapped in burlap.

The tables were elegantly set with white and blue linens and simply adored with pansies wrapped in burlap.

Chef Bushey and a representative from Worldwide Wine introduced us to each menu course, along with the accompanying wine.

Chef Bushey introduced us to each menu course.

Chef Bushey introduced us to each menu course.

The appetizer course consisted of fried Chesapeake Bay oysters with frisee and maple pancetta lardons. Seared diver sea scallops with roasted bacon, heirloom potatoes and apple gastrique accompanied it. The plate was paired with a deliciously fruity white wine called Ca Dei Frati Lungua 2013. We were told that it’s from a vineyard just south of Lake Garda and has nice acidity from the tartness of apple. While I am not an oyster fan, I did appreciate the combination of flavors on the plate and absolutely loved the perfectly seared scallops and baby potatoes.

The appetizer course consisted of fried Chesapeake Bay oysters and seared diver sea scallops with roasted bacon, heirloom potatoes and apple gastrique.

The appetizer course consisted of fried Chesapeake Bay oysters and seared diver sea scallops with roasted bacon, heirloom potatoes and apple gastrique.

The entrée course consisted of two plates covering a selection from the sea and one from the land. From the sea, we had grilled mahi mahi paired with coconut basmati rice, limed mango and passion fruit essence. It was nicely paired with “Butter” Chardonnay 2013 that had a rich flavoring and picked up on the tropical fruit accents. The fish was nicely grilled and was flavorful and flakey.

Grilled mahi mahi paired with coconut basmati rice, limed mango and passion fruit essence.

Grilled mahi mahi paired with coconut basmati rice, limed mango and passion fruit essence.

From the land, we were served pan roasted lamb loin chops with spring pea puree and organic mushrooms. It was not only a beautifully presented plate but also delicious to the palate. The lamb was paired with Vincent Girardin Rouge Cuvee St. Vincent 2012. We were told that this burgundy wine had a hint of black cherries and pairs well with red meats.

Pan roasted lamb loin chops with spring pea puree and organic mushrooms.

Pan roasted lamb loin chops with spring pea puree and organic mushrooms.

Before dessert was served, we were introduced to Sarah, the Madison Beach Hotel’s pastry chef. She’s leads everything cooking in the “sugar shack.”

Sarah, the Madison Beach Hotel’s pastry chef.

Sarah, the Madison Beach Hotel’s pastry chef.

Our dessert consisted of a cherry newton, paired with almond Devonshire cream and lemon Anglaise. The dessert was served with Michele Chiario Nivole Moscato d’Asti 2012. It’s a lovely sweet, light sparkling wine with a hint of fruit flavors. We were told this is the best dessert wine in the world and an excellent companion to fresh fruit pastries.

Cherry newton, paired with almond Devonshire cream and lemon Anglaise.

Cherry newton, paired with almond Devonshire cream and lemon Anglaise.

The dessert and accompanying wine were a perfect ending to the wonderful meal and night.

In addition to all of the magnificent food and wine we sampled, my notes wouldn’t be complete without an acknowledgement to all the wonderful skills and service provided by the kitchen and wait staff.

The wonderful kitchen and wait staff.

The wonderful kitchen and wait staff.

The "Meet the Chef" event was top notch all the way around!

The “Meet the Chef” event was top notch all the way around!

It was top notch all the way around!

Madison Beach Hotel and its Wharf Restaurant are located at 94 West Wharf Road in Madison, CT among a picturesque beachfront community.

Madison Beach Hotel and its Wharf Restaurant.

Madison Beach Hotel and its Wharf Restaurant.

The Wharf restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch or dinner and has outdoor seating on the porch when the weather permits and a Sunday jazz brunch. The restaurant serves farm-to-table cuisine showcasing the flavors of the Atlantic northeast by using locally sourced ingredients and classical preparations.

I can’t wait to return for a cocktail on the pictorial patio or a relaxed Sunday jazz brunch now that the weather is spectacular!

 

Have you been to Madison Beach Hotel in Madison, CT?

Where’s your favorite place for drinks and dining on the shore?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was provided with a complimentary reservation to the “Meet The Chef” event by Madison Beach Hotel’s marketing team, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event

Lyndigo Spice

Lyndigo Spice

Founded by Celeste Croxton, Lyndigo Spice is a Boston area based company that produces an artisanal line of chutneys, relishes, fruit spreads and spice blends. Inspired by ethnic food like Caribbean and Indian, Celeste started by making pineapple chutney as a way to cool down the heat of her Jamaican Jerk Chicken for her catering clients. She was commonly asked if they could purchase the chutney in stores. Fast forward a few years and now you can find many of her recipes in the line she’s created called Lyndigo Spice.

Lyndigo Spice is a Boston area based company that produces an artisanal line of chutneys, relishes, fruit spreads and spice blends.

Lyndigo Spice is a Boston area based company that produces an artisanal line of chutneys, relishes, fruit spreads and spice blends.

I was provided with a selection of the Lyndigo Spice line of products and their roasted chickpeas.

Lyndigo Spice roasted chickpeas taste like roasted peanuts.

Lyndigo Spice roasted chickpeas taste like roasted peanuts.

With the help of a friend, we turned the product sampling into an intimate gathering, with cocktails of course. We paired the chutneys, relishes and fruit spread with three different cheeses, nuts, dried cherries and crostini.

We paired the chutneys, relishes and fruit spread with three different cheeses, nuts, dried cherries and crostini.

We paired the chutneys, relishes and fruit spread with three different cheeses, nuts, dried cherries and crostini.

The guys loved the savory and spicy red pepper relishes. They commented that there was an after burn from the spicy relish that kept them going back for more. My favorites were the fennel and fig chutney and the plum fruit spread. I’m already thinking about the variety of scones I could pair with the plum spread. I also liked the smokey peach and cherry chutney and the pineapple chutney paired with the Brie cheese on a crostini. I can imagine pairing the chutneys with pork, chicken and/or fish.  I was surprised that the roasted mango relish had some heat to it.

We tasted every flavor and denoted our favorites.

We tasted every flavor and denoted our favorites.

The Lyndigo Spice products cost $10 for a 6.75 oz jar. Right now the products are sold at a few select grocery stores and farmers markets in the Massachusetts area. You can also purchase them online at the Lyndigo website.

 

Have you ever tried Lyndigo Spice relishes, chutneys and/or fruit spreads?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was provided with a complimentary sample of Lyndigo Spice products, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience.

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – The Pollan Family Table Cookbook

“Food for Thought” Cookbook book club – The Pollan Family Table Cookbook

For our April 2015 meeting of the cookbook club, we focused our cooking on The Pollan Family Table cookbook by Corky, Lori, Dana and Tracy Pollan.

The Pollan Family Table cookbook

The Pollan Family Table cookbook

After years of calling each other to ask about family recipes, Corky, who writes for the Cooking Channel blog and is also former style director at Gourmet magazine and former Best Bets editor at New York Magazine, and her three daughters collected three generations of the family’s recipes. They have shared more than 100 of their best in this cookbook. In addition to the recipes and beautiful corresponding photographs, the cookbook is organized so that each recipe has a pantry and market list of ingredients, making it easy to shop and plan dinners. I thought that feature was really clever.

Susan hosted our evening and had snapdragon flowers on the table to signify spring – that finally arrived here in Connecticut! We began the evening with two appetizers made by Pat. While the cookbook doesn’t have a specific section labeled as appetizers, we purposed a few items as our “starters.”

Spicy chunky guacamole

Spicy chunky guacamole

The spicy chunky guacamole is perfect with chips. The recipe allows you to customize it to be as mild or spicy as you like it. Pat opted for the mild side. The guacamole was creamy and cool tasting. In following one of the recipe’s helpful tips, Pat kept the avocado pit in the center to help prevent the guacamole from turning brown – and it worked!

Crispy parmesan-zucchini chips

Crispy parmesan-zucchini chips

Our second appetizer, also made by Pat, was the crispy parmesan-zucchini chips. The recipe is a healthy version of fried zucchini but it’s baked in the oven and still has all the flavors. We loved the zucchini chips and left the platter empty!

The centerpiece for our meal was chicken marsala with mushrooms and sage made by Susan.

Chicken marsala with mushrooms and sage

Chicken marsala with mushrooms and sage

The combination of sage, mushrooms and marsala wine made a wonderful, rich sauce. The chicken was very tender. I could see myself making this recipe for a weekday dinner or for weekend entertaining.

Accompanying the chicken were several sides. Val made the rich and creamy polenta and it held true to the recipe’s name.

Rich and creamy polenta

Rich and creamy polenta

We enjoyed using the polenta as the base for the chicken marsala. The richness of the polenta and the mushroom and sage sauce was an amazing combination.

For our second side, I made the creamy spinach pasta alfredo with crispy pancetta. I will admit that I substituted turkey bacon for pancetta, as I have not had good luck cooking with pancetta.

Creamy spinach pasta alfredo with crispy pancetta

Creamy spinach pasta alfredo with crispy pancetta

This dish begins as your typical pasta with alfredo sauce. However, with the addition of the spinach and pancetta/ turkey bacon it rises to new heights. It’s a perfect “all-in-one” meal because you have many of the food groups represented in one dish.

I also made the crispy garlic bread.

Crispy garlic bread fresh from the oven!

Crispy garlic bread fresh from the oven!

It was a very simple recipe to make and can be a nice compliment to many entrees.

The meal wouldn’t have been complete without the cookbook’s hallmark dish – the Pollan signature salad. I was very excited that Sharon signed up to make it!

The Pollan signature salad

The Pollan signature salad

The salad is a delicious combination of lettuce, caramelized walnuts, pears and shaved Parmesan cheese. If those ingredients didn’t already have you salivating, the dressing that topped it was light and bursting with flavor.

To cap off a beautiful meal, Terri made Hallie’s Mixed Berry pie.

Hallie’s Mixed Berry pie

Hallie’s Mixed Berry pie

The pie is filled with blueberries and raspberries coupled with a hint of lemon from the fresh lemon juice and zest. It was delicious and definitely worth a diet cheat.

Packing up a slice to take home!

Packing up a slice to take home!

When my husband saw this pie was the dessert, he told me to make sure I brought a piece home!

For our “take home treats,” Susan made Esme’s S’mores cookies and Mack and Cam’s mini pecan tarts. I love that the cookbook gives credit to the extended family members (in this case the grandchildren) who developed these recipes. Esme, Michael J Fox and Tracy Pollan’s daughter, developed the cookie recipe. She sold them as part of a cookie business she started with all the proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Esme’s S’mores cookies and Mack and Cam’s mini pecan tarts

Esme’s S’mores cookies and Mack and Cam’s mini pecan tarts

Both sweet treats were delicious. I always enjoy having something to indulge on after our dinner. It’s a great way to extend the fun!

In total, ten dishes were made from the Pollan Family Table cookbook.

Ten dishes were made from the Pollan Family Table cookbook.

Ten dishes were made from the Pollan Family Table cookbook.

I know there are several other recipes in the cookbook that I am anxious to try very soon!

Our next gathering will be in June. We will be cooking from the “Skinnytaste” and “CSA” cookbooks.

We will be cooking from the “Skinnytaste” and “CSA” cookbooks in June.

We will be cooking from the “Skinnytaste” and “CSA” cookbooks in June.

I can’t wait to see – and taste – all the delicious recipes we’ll be sampling then.

 

Does your family have special recipes handed down to generations? If so, what’s your favorite?

Does your family gather together for dinners?

 

 

Disclaimer:  While the cookbook book club was provided with copies of The Pollan Family Table cookbook, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event

Foodstirs, food crafting kits

Foodstirs, food crafting kits

Generation Z (the group born in 1995 to present) has a curious attitude toward food, healthy eating and cooking. Thanks to technology, social media and FoodNetwork (all of which are part of their pop culture), this group of kids is more up-to-date on healthy food trends and more inclined to experiment in kitchen. Generation Z possesses some of the youngest cooking prodigies with opportunities to showcase their cooking know-how to the public. According to the NPD Group report, Generation Z consumers prefer home-cooked foods to processed, ready-to-eat meals such as cold cereal, and are not big fans of microwaveable foods – yes they prefer to use the stovetop or oven to prepare meals.

With this generation’s culinary curiosity highly peaked, its no wonder consumers are seeing an emerging trend in food craft kits for kids. Foodstirs is the name of a company specializing in food crafting kits designed to get families in the kitchen cooking together.

Foodstirs, food crafting kits for kids

Foodstirs, food crafting kits for kids

The company’s owner, Galit Laibow, created the Foodstirs’ name. It’s a derivation from the words “Foodie” and “Hipster.” The food crafting theme kits are delivered in self-mailer boxes directly to your doorstep.

The food crafting theme kits are delivered in self-mailer boxes directly to your doorstep.

The food crafting theme kits are delivered in self-mailer boxes directly to your doorstep.

Each kit contains all of the dry ingredients for the sweet project, a step-by-step recipe card for the food craft and a bonus healthy dinner recipe, skill sheet, specialty cooking tools and craft supplies. Foodstirs strives to use all natural ingredients, and the flours and sugars in the kits are organic.

Each kit contains all of the necessary items for the sweet project, including an apron.

Each kit contains all of the necessary items for the sweet project, including an apron.

The Foodstirs Mother’s Day kit also included all the supplies to make a Mother’s day card.

The Foodstirs Mother’s Day kit also included all the supplies to make a Mother’s day card.

The Foodstirs Mother’s Day kit also included all the supplies to make a Mother’s day card.

The Foodstir kits aim to teach and inspire children to discover their inner chef. I was provided with two kits and enlisted my niece Caitlin, a sous chef in the making. She’s been asking me to teach her how to cook and these kits provided us with the perfect opportunity!

I enlisted my niece Caitlin, a sous chef in the making, to help.

I enlisted my niece Caitlin, a sous chef in the making, to help.

Since our time was limited, we decided to make the mother’s day kit, and use it as early gift for her mother. The kits include all the dry ingredients in individually labeled packages.

The kits include all the dry ingredients in individually labeled packages.

The kits include all the dry ingredients in individually labeled packages.

We followed the simple instructions. The kits foster a healthy exploration of different ingredients and bring a fun curiosity to the science of baking.

Caitlin took over to stir the ingredients together!

Caitlin took over to stir the ingredients together!

They also encourage counting, learning how to properly measure ingredients and fine and gross motor skills for stirring and kneading dough – perfect for developing their muscles!

She pat the dough into a disk-shaped circle.

She pat the dough into a disk-shaped circle.

We followed the instructions to create the dough, rolled it out and then cut it into eight wedges.

We followed the instructions calling for the dough to be cut into eight pieces.

We followed the instructions calling for the dough to be cut into eight pieces.

We placed the wedges on the parchment-lined cookie sheet and brushed them with milk.

Caitlin brushed each scone with milk.

Caitlin brushed each scone with milk.

Before placing them in the oven, the directions instructed us to sprinkle each scone lightly with some of the remaining sugar – for a little added sweetness.

She sprinkled each scone lightly with some of the remaining sugar – for added sweetness.

She sprinkled each scone lightly with some of the remaining sugar – for added sweetness.

We topped each scone with a single heart sprinkle, displaying all the love that went into our Mother’s day baking project.

We topped each scone with a single heart sprinkle, displaying all the love that went into our Mother’s day baking project.

We topped each scone with a single heart sprinkle, displaying all the love that went into our Mother’s day baking project.

We cooled the scones on a wire baking rack. They smell amazing!

The freshly baked cranberry scones smell amazing!

The freshly baked cranberry scones smell amazing!

Once the scones were cooled they were ready for packaging. We placed them in a basket, paired them with strawberry jam and teas and tied them up in a southern basket style. Caitlin’s mom loved them and Caitlin was very proud of her gift. We look forward to having another baking session using the Lemon Cookie kit.

We placed the scones in a basket, paired them with strawberry jam and teas and tied them up in a southern basket style.

We placed the scones in a basket, paired them with strawberry jam and teas and tied them up in a southern basket style.

Foodstir food craft kits are sold online and delivered directly to your door. They retail for $24.99 – $39.99 for each kit or are sold in a bundle of three for $94.99. The kits are perfect for children ages 4 and up. Chefs designed them and they are kid tested. Foodstir kits help kids be more comfortable and creative in the kitchen, while teaching them basic cooking skills.

 

Have you ever taught a child to bake?

What’s your favorite recipe to bake with kids?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was provided with a complimentary sample of Foodstir food craft kits, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience.

Savor – CT Food & Wine show

Savor – CT Food & Wine show

The “Savor” celebration of wine, food and spirits took place on April 10-11, 2015 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. It was an amazing celebration spotlighting top talent across the culinary industry.

Savor - CT Food & Wine event

Savor – CT Food & Wine event

The two-day celebration featured two sessions of the Grand Tasting, both Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Also, the event included a “Savor in Style” Charity gala on Saturday evening.

As you entered the conference center for the Grand Tasting, there were hundreds of wine glasses ready for you to use in sampling the wines and spirits from CT distributors.

Hundreds of wine glasses were ready for you to use in sampling the wines and spirits from CT distributors.

Hundreds of wine glasses were ready for you to use in sampling the wines and spirits from CT distributors.

Many of the exhibitors focused on quality, bringing some of their “top-shelf” bottles for guests to try.

Top-shelf spirits for sampling!

Top-shelf spirits for sampling!

Did anyone say cocktails!?!

Did anyone say cocktails!?!

There was an array of wine, spirits, beers, craft beers and hard cider distributors. It was a great opportunity to expand your palate and try something you wouldn’t normally try (e.g., oxtail croquettes, cauliflower taco, foie gras bratwurst, calamari ceviche).

90 Cellars Wines

90 Cellars Wines

You were sure not to leave thirsty…or hungry!

The event also featured a tremendous assortment of culinary eats from top chefs and restaurants around the state! It was the best I’ve seen so far this year!

Chefs Tyler Anderson from Millwrights and Jaime McDonald from Bear’s Smokehouse

Chefs Tyler Anderson from Millwrights and Jaime McDonald from Bear’s Smokehouse

I was able to catch up with two of my favorite chefs – Tyler Anderson from Millwrights and Jaime McDonald from Bear’s Smokehouse, along with The Bear’s Smokehouse bear.

Millwrights featured their faro risotto - delicious!

Millwrights featured their faro risotto – delicious!

Bears featured their smoked brisket sliders and Millwrights featured their faro risotto.

A few of the other restaurants featured included: Barcelona

Barcelona's with several locations in CT.

Barcelona’s with several locations in CT.

Octagon Restaurant at the Mystic Marriott

Octagon restaurant at the Mystic Marriott

Octagon restaurant at the Mystic Marriott

Max Restaurants had a main booth with Chef Scott Miller. And many of the Max Restaurants also were present.

Max Restaurant's chef Scott Miller

Max Restaurant’s chef Scott Miller

NIXS restaurant was serving up their lobster and crab stuffed tater tots

NIXS restaurant chefs were serving lobster and crab stuffed tater tots - YUM!

NIXS restaurant chefs were serving lobster and crab stuffed tater tots – YUM!

And ON20’s chef Lizotte was offering samples of turducken pate – hence my opportunity to try something I wouldn’t normally try. It was interesting.

ON20’s chef Lizotte was offering samples of turducken pate

ON20’s chef Lizotte was offering samples of turducken pate

Plan B restaurants was showcasing their award-winning burger sliders and bourbons. I love their burger tower!

The Plan B burger tower!

The Plan B burger tower!

There were many other CT-based restaurants represented at the event – all showcasing their chefs and specialty dishes.

In addition, you could also find other food & beverage-related exhibitors like our friends from Shearwater Coffee

Ed from Shearwater Coffee

Ed from Shearwater Coffee

Whole Foods markets had a dessert sampling

Whole Foods markets had a dessert sampling

Whole Foods markets had a dessert sampling

And Carol’s Eggs were having folks guess how many eggs were in the glass cylinder. Carol’s offers pasture-raised organic eggs from small flocks on small family farms.

Carol’s Eggs were having folks guess how many eggs were in the glass cylinder.

Carol’s Eggs were having folks guess how many eggs were in the glass cylinder.

Another highlight to the grand tasting was the celebrity chef demonstrations. First on stage was Mary Ann Esposito. She’s the creator and host of the PBS series Ciao Italia.

Me posing with Mary Ann Esposito and talking about Italian food!

Me posing with Mary Ann Esposito and talking about Italian food!

Marking its 25th anniversary, it’s the longest cooking series in television history.

 

Next up was the headlining celebrity chef for the event, Robert Irvine. He is the host of Food Network’s Dinner Impossible and Restaurant Impossible.

Chef Robert Irvine is the host of Food Network’s Dinner Impossible and Restaurant Impossible...and one big guy!

Chef Robert Irvine is the host of Food Network’s Dinner Impossible and Restaurant Impossible…and one big guy!

Marc Summers, who’s a television producer, personality and host, joined him. Currently Summers is the executive producer of Restaurant Impossible.

Chef Irvine and Marc Summers

Chef Irvine and Marc Summers

Chef Irvine cooked with some audience members to create a simple and flavorful chicken thighs dish in minutes.

A simple and flavorful chicken thighs dish that Chef Irvine prepared with audience participants.

A simple and flavorful chicken thighs dish that Chef Irvine prepared with audience participants.

Chef Irvine did an exemplary job at recognizing the men and women in the armed forces. In addition, a portion of Savor’s proceeds was donated to the Robert Irvine Foundation, a not-for-profit that honors men and women defending our country.

 

Finally, Chef Ming Tsai took the stage. Ming hosts the public television show called Simply Ming, which is in its 12th season. He’s also chef and owner of Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon restaurants in the Boston area.

Chef Ming Tsai hosts the public television show called Simply Ming.

Chef Ming Tsai hosts the public television show called Simply Ming.

The chefs were wonderful at interacting with each other.

Chefs Mary Ann Esposito and Ming Tsai

Chefs Mary Ann Esposito and Ming Tsai

I loved the banter between Ming, Esposito and Irvine!

 

The entire Savor event was fabulous and extremely well planned. Already, Savor announced the dates for next year’s event. It will take place at the same location on April 8-9, 2016. Mark your calendars, as it’s an event you will not want to miss!

Savor announced the dates for next year’s event -- April 8-9, 2016.

Savor announced the dates for next year’s event — April 8-9, 2016.

 

Have you ever been to a food and wine festival?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was provided with complimentary tickets the SavorCT event, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event.

Graze snack-delivery service

Graze snack-delivery service

One of the latest marketing trends is to sign up to have boxes of retail goods regularly delivered to your doorstep. Sometimes it’s an introduction of new products to sample and other times it’s ones that you pre chosen. While this delivery concept isn’t new, the range of products using this service is what’s broadened and elevated the trend to gain popularity.

Over the last few years, the home-delivery snack box trend has emerged and is rapidly expanded. Graze.com is one of the players in this marketplace.

Graze logo

Seven friends, who were sick of chips and candy and wanted a better way to snack, started Graze. They developed a range of over 100 snacks (including pure fruit, wholesome treats and dips & dippers) and designed an intelligent algorithm that uses your preferences to determine the perfect box of snacks especially for you. I was sent a graze box of snacks to sample.

The recyclable Graze box is a self-mailer and fits right into your mailbox.

The recyclable Graze box is a self-mailer and fits right into your mailbox.

The recyclable box is a self-mailer and fits right into your mailbox. Snack boxes come in 4 and 8 snack variety box sizes.

Snack boxes come in 4 and 8 snack variety box sizes.

My Graze box included: fruit and seed flapjack; Eleanor’s apple crumble; barbecue sub with bbq relish; and nature’s essential nutrient nuts.

My Graze box included: fruit and seed flapjack; Eleanor’s apple crumble; barbecue sub with bbq relish; and nature’s essential nutrient nuts.

My Graze box included: fruit and seed flapjack; Eleanor’s apple crumble; barbecue sub with bbq relish; and nature’s essential nutrient nuts.

What we liked: We all loved the fruit and seed flapjack, which is similar to a granola bar but different. The White family’s flapjack recipe has been passed down generations and you can taste the love that’s put into baking them. We also enjoyed the barbecue sub (pretzel nibs) with bbq relish. It was a great combination of savory and salty.

We all loved the fruit and seed flapjack and the barbecue sub (pretzel nibs) with bbq relish.

We all loved the fruit and seed flapjack and the barbecue sub (pretzel nibs) with bbq relish.

What we disliked: The apple crumble, which consisted of dehydrated apple pieces, raisins and cinnamon honey almonds, was our least favorite. In fact, it was the last snack to go and some was left by those whom I shared my sample package. While we didn’t dislike the nuts assortment, we didn’t feel that there was anything special to it.

The apple crumble, which consisted of dehydrated apple pieces, raisins and cinnamo was our least favorite.

The apple crumble was our least favorite.

But that’s the beauty of this service. You can go into your account and rate the snacks according to your preferences so the next snack-pack plays off that information. Two other benefits worth mentioning: portion sizing and nutritional benefit. I will admit when I first opened the Graze box I thought the portions seemed small and wimpy. In fact, I think I commented that I could eat the whole box myself. The smart nutritionists at Graze had perfect portion sizes in mind during development. They want to ensure you have the right amount to satisfy you without being tempted by the bottomless jar. Secondly, I like that every single snack offered through Graze has a nutritional benefit for you. Whether it is essential vitamins and minerals, a source of protein, zero trans fat, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavors or colors, or no genetically modified ingredients, you can feel good that your mid-afternoon munching doesn’t throw your healthy eating overboard.

Graze.com 4-snack variety box costs $6.99 each, including shipping.

Graze.com 4-snack variety box costs $6.99 each, including shipping.

Graze.com 4-snack variety box costs $6.99 each, including shipping. Often you can find a promo code to obtain your first box free.  You determine if you want snacks delivered every week or every two weeks. In addition to the personal use, I see the Graze.com service being a good fit for an office as a corporate gift to your customers. I also think there’s great market expansion potential with college kids as a great study treat for parents to send during exams.

 

Have you ever tried Graze snack-delivery service?

What’s your favorite snack to satisfy the mid-afternoon munchies?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was provided with a complimentary sample of a Graze.com snack box, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience.